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USA national team begins to take shape with exhibition victory over Canada, 76-51

Published on September 16, 2014

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – With the first cut behind them, thirteen United States senior national team hopefuls played in something other than a split-squad game for the first time, facing Canada before 7,484 fans in Bridgeport, Connecticut during a FIBA World Championship tune-up.


 

Canada, loaded with former Division I college players, and more experience together than the United States, showed the importance of that familiarity in the first half, jumping out to a 10-8 lead, and hanging with the more talented U.S. team, trailing only 35-31 at the half. Guard Tamara Tatham successfully penetrated the lane, and former Sacramento Monarchs forward Kim Gaucher hit 3-of-4 shots. As a team, Canada shot 52 percent in the half.

As one might expect, the United States squad was initially out of sync, as head coach Geno Auriemma played twelve different players in the first half alone. Only forwards Maya Moore and Angel McCoughtry played at least 13 minutes in the half as Auriemma sought to evaluate different players and combinations.

The U.S. team came out for the second half with a different attitude, though, focusing on the defensive end of the court, squeezing the Canadian guards with full-court pressure and half-court traps to force turnovers and mistakes. Canada only hit 8-of-21 shots in the second half, and committed 16 turnovers. After scoring 31 points in the first half, Canada could only score 10 points in each of the third and fourth quarters.

Veteran point guard Sue Bird commented, “Canada may not have the names that we do but the style they play, the fact that they play well together and they are very physical is tough to compete against.”

“Nothing but positives to take away from tonight,” said Canada’s head coach Lisa Thomaidis. “We had a great 20 minutes against the best team in the world. At times our youth and inexperience showed but we remained composed through adversity when they picked up their defensive intensity in the 3rd quarter.  I’m proud of how we remained mentally focused and competitive against a tough opponent.”

For the United States, six different players stole the ball from Canada in the second half, part of a team total of 20 for the game (Moore led with six). Buoyed by their fast break opportunities, they hit 17-of-31 shots for the half.

Minutes varied, and if a person wants to read into final cuts based on minutes played, centers Jantel Lavender and Stefanie Dolson played the least for team USA, followed by Kayla McBride and Breanna Stewart.

Ten of thirteen U.S. players scored during the game, and Nneka Ogwumike led the U.S. in scoring with 10 points. Breanna Stewart and Odyssy Sims scored nine, while Lindsay Whalen, Moore, and Seimone Augustus scored eight apiece.

“We’re making a few mistakes here and there but that’s going to happen,” said Moore. “We’re working through the kinks. There’s just a general feeling that we’re going to get better.”

The United States leaves on Tuesday for Paris, France, where they will be joined by invitees from the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky including WNBA finals MVP Diana Taurasi. Auriemma hopes Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne will also arrive. He did indicate during his press conference that health concerns and the length of the flight could impact if Griner and Delle Donne make the trip. Sky center Sylvia Fowles will not a part of the team as she is recovering from lingering injuries.

“We’ll find out more when we get to France and we play three games in three days,” said Auriemma about finalizing the roster for the world championship. “The competition is going to be really good so we’ll find out a lot about ourselves and about these young guys. We’ll see if they can play at that level so, by next Monday, I’ll know a lot more than I know right now.”

In Paris, the USA will have three more exhibition games against Australia, China and France before official tournament play. The FIBA World Championship will be held September 27-October 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. Tournament play for the USA begins September 27 against China.

Canada heads to Spain where their will face Cuba (Sept.19) and Spain (Sept.20) in exhibition games before heading to Turkey.

Auriemma is being assisted on the sideline by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley; while University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti will serve as an advance scout and court coach for the 2014 USA squad.

The USA owns a record eight gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Championship play, while compiling an all-time 97-21 record at the event. In 2010, the most recent World Championship, the U.S. finished with a perfect 9-0 record and the gold medal.

USA Schedule

Sept. 19
USA vs. Australia
Stade Pierre de Coubertin
Paris, France
11:30 a.m. ET

Sept. 20
USA vs. China
Stade Pierre de Coubertin
Paris, France
11:30 a.m. ET

Sept. 21
USA vs. France
Stade Pierre de Coubertin
Paris, France
10 a.m. ET

Sept. 23
USA vs. Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
Time TBD

2014 FIBA World Championship Schedule

Sept. 27
China vs. USA
Abdi Ipekci Arena
Istanbul, Turkey
3:30 p.m. ET

Sept. 28
USA vs. Serbia
Abdi Ipekci Arena
Istanbul, Turkey
3:30 p.m. ET

Sept. 30
USA vs. Angola
Abdi Ipekci Arena
Istanbul, Turkey
3:30 p.m. ET

Oct. 1 – Quarterfinal Play-In Games
Oct. 3 – Quarterfinals
Oct. 4 – Semifinals
Oct. 5 – Finals


 

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